Jan Harrison takes a fresh look at a set of 11 standards on this her maiden album. Armed with eight very good Colorado-based sidemen whom she mixes up throughout the album, Harrison vocalizes and scats through more than 50 minutes of an entertaining performance. Straight Ahead gets off to a good start with an almost seven-minute celebration of Van Morrison's classic "Moondance" with stellar support from guitarist Mark Klagstad. She begins the tune scatting and then segues into the lyrics. "Manha de Carnaval" is sung in Portuguese, with Eric Gunnison's piano and Nat Yarbrough's drum providing the principal backing. "On Green Dolphin Street," done as a fast paced bossa nova, gets a refreshing run through by Harrison with frenetic, but controlled, solos, Andy Weyl's piano, and Klagstad's guitar. Klagstad is also prominent on a very poignant "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," which is reminiscent of Irene Kral's classic recording. A very fast "What Is This Thing Called Love," with some different phrasing, is one of the album's highlights. "Angel Eyes," sung in the saloon singer manner Frank Sinatra used on his "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," once more shows the rapport between Harrison and Klagstad. On "Save Your Love for Me" Harrison is singing in a medium tempo, while the trio is playing in a quicker tempo -- risky, but when pulled off, it's very effective. The 13-second vocal by Paul Warburton is obviously a joke that the producer decided to leave on the CD. "Teach Me Tonight" is sung without the yearning and pleading one usually hears in other versions of this tune. Harrison makes the teaching request in a matter-of-fact, let's-get-on-with-it manner. With a style similar to Anita O'Day's, Harrison has a strong, clear voice with a very direct vocal delivery. There's no attempt at subtlety on this disc; the vocals go straight to the heart and meaning of the lyrics without much ado.
Straight Ahead Review
by Dave Nathan